Feb 24 The U.S. Air Force is poised to award a
contract to either Boeing Co (BA.N) or Airbus parent EADS
EAD.PA for 179 new refueling planes, the latest twist in a
politically charged procurement drama that began just after the
Sept. 11, 2001, hijacking attacks. [ID:nN23181087]
This is the U.S. Air Force's third attempt since 2001 to
begin replacing its existing fleet of KC-135 refueling planes,
which are now about 50 years old on average. Two earlier
efforts failed amid ethics violations and technical mistakes.
The following is a chronology of events in what Boeing's
commercial airplane chief Jim Albaugh has described as "the
longest-running soap opera since 'Days of Our Lives'":
Sept. 25, 2001 - Darleen Druyun, then the Air Force's No. 2
acquisition official, meets with Boeing officials to map out a
strategy to lease 100 Boeing 767s.
January, 2002 - Congress passes a law appropriating defense
funds for fiscal year 2002 that gives the Air Force permission
to lease up to 100 Boeing 767s.
October, 2002 - While still negotiating with Boeing about
the tanker lease, Druyun meets with then-Boeing Chief Financial
Officer Michael Sears to discuss a job offer. Sears tells her:
"This meeting really didn't take place." A month later Druyun
retires and accepts a $250,000-a-year job with Boeing.
January, 2003 - Boeing announces Druyun's hiring. Watchdog
group Project on Government Oversight describes it as "one of
the most egregious examples in recent memory of the revolving
door between the federal government and defense contractors."
May, 2003 - Four days before his retirement, then-Pentagon
chief arms buyer Edward Aldridge approves $23.5 billion Air
Force plan to lease, then buy, Boeing 767 tankers.
November, 2003 - Boeing fires Druyun and Sears for
unethical conduct in Druyun's hiring. Boeing Chief Executive
Phil Condit resigns a week later.
March, 2004 - Pentagon inspector general says the Air
Force's tanker procurement strategy was inappropriate and
recommends a halt until the Pentagon resolves several issues.
April, 2004 - Druyun pleads guilty to a conflict of
interest violation and later sentenced to nine months in
November, 2004 - Sears pleads guilty to conflict of
interest violation and is sentenced to four months in prison.
September, 2005 - Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N) says it
will team with EADS to compete for an Air Force tanker
contract, offering a variant of the A330 airliner.
January, 2007 - The Air Force releases final rules for a
new tanker competition after agreeing to exempt a World Trade
Organization dispute between the European Union and the United
States that could have knocked Northrop out of the contest.
February, 2008 - The Air Force awards a projected $35
billion contract for up to 179 refueling planes to Northrop and
March, 2008 - Boeing protests the award, citing "serious
flaws" in the acquisition process.
June, 2008 - The GAO upholds the Boeing protest after
finding "significant errors" in the acquisition process.
September, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert Gates cancels
the Northrop contract. He says the process is too politicized
to resolve before the Bush administration leaves office.
September, 2009 - The Air Force releases draft rules for a
new tanker competition. Northrop says the terms favor Boeing's
smaller 767 tanker and in December informs the Pentagon that it
will not bid unless significant changes are made.
Feb. 24, 2010 - The Pentagon and Air Force release a
revised final request for proposals, but lawmakers say the
changes are slight and might not satisfy Northrop.
March 8, 2010 - Northrop says it will not submit a bid.
April 20, 2010 - EADS North America announces that it will
compete directly with Boeing for the contract, with Chairman
Ralph Crosby calling it "a hell of an opportunity."
Nov. 19, 2010 - Air Force discloses that it inadvertently
sent rival bidders some data about each other's offer.
Feb. 11, 2011 - Deadline for EADS and Boeing to submit
Feb. 18, 2011 - The Pentagon's inspector general finds the
data mix-up was inadvertent and the Air Force responded in
accordance with federal law once it was discovered.
Feb. 24, 2011 - U.S. Air Force expected to announce
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)